2008-09 Ski Season Progress Report as of February 27, 2009

October was mostly average, with small amounts of snow in many regions but nothing that will impact the season. At the end of the month a major storm hit the West Coast, but snow levels averaged 9,000 feet, so only Mammoth was able to open some natural terrain from it. The storm moved on to Utah, where the Cottonwood Canyon resorts received nearly 4 feet of snow, allowing Snowbird to open Nov. 7. The storm continued into Colorado, but the snowfall there averaged about a foot. There was scattered snow during the second week of November but next 2 weeks were dry and warm. Therefore at most western areas Thankgiving skiing was marginal. The widespread drought continued for over a week into December but since then most regions have had substantial snow, accompanied by abnormally cold temperatures. Some regions caught up (Oregon, the Sierra, Utah and western Colorado had major dumps over Christmas) and were above average in snowfall and terrain open for the holidays. From Christmas into early January the storm track moved north, improving many of the areas that had been limited due to lack of snow. For a minimum of 10 days in mid-January the entire West was clear under high pressure. In late January that drought ended with substantial snow in the Sierra, Utah and Colorado. Similar storm tracks continued through 2/3 of February, hitting mainly California and Utah. This week the track finally moved north to bring some new snow to Western Canada, which had little over the previous month.

California: Mammoth received 21 inches of snow near its base and opened a run Nov. 2. But much more fell on the upper mountain, which opened Nov. 7. The solid upper mountain base held up through a warm couple of weeks, and Mammoth was 40% open (the most acreage in North America) after 3 more lower mountain chairs opened on snowmaking by Thanksgiving. The big early November storm was nearly all rain at Tahoe, and with ensuing warm weather only Boreal and Mt. Rose opened for Thanksgiving on a very restricted basis, followed by Heavenly later in the holiday. A mid-December storm dropped 3-4 feet in the Sierra, and through Christmas another 1-3 feet. Tahoe areas were close to full operation by New Year's, with only a few expert sectors like Killebrew Canyon, Silverado and some of the Mt. Rose Chutes still closed. There was minimal snow for 3 weeks in January with record warm temperatures, so conditions deteriorated at low altitude or in sunny exposures. A substantial storm in late January dropped 2-5 feet in the Sierra. However the first half of the storm was rain below 8,000 feet, so base depths there remained at only 3-4 feet. February has been stormy in the Sierra, with all areas getting at least 7 feet and 11 feet at Mammoth. The mid-December storm also brought 4 feet of snow to Southern California and Arizona areas, which were in full operation before Christmas, much earlier than normal. Christmas storms brought 3 feet of snow to Arizona but mostly rain to Southern California. February snowfall in Southern California and Arizona areas has been 5-6 feet. The past week has been warmer in California, with some rain below 8,000 feet in the last storm, so lower elevations have spring conditions. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Squaw 8,000

318

102%

95%

Kirkwood

273

81%

100%

Mammoth

375

144%

100%

Northstar

284

138%

98%

Mt. Rose

206

82%

95%

Southern Cal

132

149%

100%

Arizona Snowbowl

192

116%

100%

Pacific Northwest: Whistler opened for Thanksgiving, but only 5% on snowmaking trails. Snowfalls through Christmas were modest as the storm track went south, so Whistler was only 26% open at Christmas. Despite several storms from Christmas into early January, most of the Whistler alpine was still not open, though mainly due to snow stability issues like Utah and Jackson had in December. Oregon areas had 10-15 feet of snow in December and were in full operation weather permitting. Washington areas had lesser amounts before Christmas, but 4 feet over the holidays. An early January warm storm closed Washington areas with rain and iced some trees at Mt. Bachelor. There was less than a foot of snow the rest of the month throughout the region, so ungroomed terrain was variable or difficult. But Whistler's snowpack stabilized and its Peak Chair finally opened January 24. There was only about a foot of snow north of Oregon during the first 3 weeks of February, so surface conditions were difficult and base depths were a still-low 4+ feet at Whistler. Relief has finally come this week with up to 3 feet of new snow throughout the region.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Whistler

218

72%

100%

Crystal Mt.

269

99%

100%

Stevens Pass

231

66%

100%

Hood Meadows

323

102%

100%

Mt. Bachelor

338

127%

100%

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: Lake Louise opened a run on snowmaking Nov. 8 and was 5% open through November, followed by Sunshine opening Nov. 15 with somewhat more terrain. These areas were in majority operation after 2 feet of snow in early December. The new Revelstoke area opened about 1/4 of terrain for Thanksgiving and has now had 169 inches. Revelstoke and Kicking Horse were also in majority operation mid-December. Western Canada did not have much snow for 2 weeks before Christmas, so many areas were still very restricted for the holidays. From Christmas week into early January most areas had 2-4 feet of snow, with up to 5 feet near the U.S. border, so most terrain then opened. The Washington State rain was mixed rain/snow at Red and Fernie, but overall coverage and stability improved in January. There was little snow in late January and amounts ranging from a few inches to just over a foot for 3 weeks in February. Some off-trail conditions were variable and base depths are below average. Conditions have improved with 1-3 feet of new snow this week.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Lake Louise

95

82%

90%

Sunshine

150

88%

96%

Kicking Horse

149

80%

100%

Fernie

181

65%

96%

Castle Mt.

155

71%

74%

Red Mt.

179

86%

100%

Whitewater

208

74%

100%

Sun Peaks

135

93%

100%

U. S. Northern Rockies: 2+ feet of snow in early December brought Targhee and Bridger Bowl to full operation. From then until Christmas snowfall ranged from 3 feet near the Canadian border to 6 feet in the Tetons, with the northern areas catching up by New Year's. Most areas were close to full operation by New Year's, and some of the still closed terrain was due to control work, particularly after the 2 December avalanche incidents at Jackson. Most areas had 2-4 feet of snow in the first half of January. The Tetons were on the northern edge of the late January and February storms and got 4-7 feet new during that time. Farther north there was less than a foot in the second half of January and about a foot in the first 3 weeks of February, so some hardpack and crusty conditions were reported. This week most of the region has had 2-3 feet.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Whitefish

222

95%

100%

Bridger Bowl

185

91%

100%

Grand Targhee

357

102%

100%

Jackson Hole

282

99%

100%

Schweitzer

214

109%

100%

Sun Valley

141

100%

100%

Utah: Snowbird opened Nov. 7 after a storm of nearly 4 feet. After more snow the next week, all 4 Cottonwood areas were open for the weekend of Nov. 15-16 (ranging from 39% at Alta to 11% at Solitude). Surface conditions were variable after 2 weeks of no new snow, but a few inches over Thanksgiving weekend resurfaced much of Alta and allowed Supreme to open. Park City delayed its opening to November 29 because it was often too warm to make snow. The Cottonwood areas have had 8-9 feet of December snow and were in good shape by Christmas. The Park City group was less than 10% open in mid-December but then had 6 feet of snow through Christmas. Calm weather through New Year's allowed nearly all terrain to be controlled and opened. 2-4 feet new in early January, then dry for about 10 days. Utah areas were in excellent shape after 3-5 feet in late January and another 6-8 feet the first 3 weeks of February. Since then there has been a melt/freeze and variable surfaces are reported, especially below 8,000 feet.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Alta

409

116%

100%

Snowbird

358

116%

100%

Brighton/Solitude

358

106%

100%

Snowbasin

307

137%

100%

Park City

256

123%

100%

Brian Head

187

83%

100%

Northern and Central Colorado: Loveland and A-Basin opened their first snowmaking runs Oct. 15. Copper and Breckenridge also opened on snowmaking Nov. 8, and Vail and Winter Park opened Nov. 22. Historical snowfall leaders Steamboat, Vail and Winter Park are normally about 1/4 open by Thanksgiving, but everyone in the region was well under 10% open this year. The Thanksgiving weekend storm dropped an average of 2 feet, with 4 feet at Loveland. With 4-8 feet of December snow most of these areas enjoyed an above average holiday season. 2-5 feet new in early January, then the same 10-day dry spell as Utah. 1.5 - 3 feet in late January and 1-2 feet in early February kept surfaces refreshed at most areas. Steamboat had twice as much snow as the rest of the region over this period. There has been 2-3 feet of snow in the region during the second half of February but some hardpack and spring conditions have merged recently.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Beaver Creek

282

126%

100%

Breckenridge

204

106%

100%

Copper Mt.

225

127%

100%

Keystone

149

108%

100%

Loveland

215

100%

100%

Steamboat

294

108%

100%

Vail

307

125%

100%

Winter Park

265

108%

99%

Southern and Western Colorado: Aspen, Telluride and Taos opened a handful of snowmaking runs for Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving weekend storm averaged about 1.5 feet, allowing Wolf Creek to open most terrain, though on a modest 20-inch base. Aspen had 4 feet in early December and was half open mid-month, but other areas were in more in limited operation. There was 3 feet of snow in most of the region mid-December, opening most runs, and another 1-3 feet through Christmas. Half of Crested Butte's North Face opened Jan. 2, and elsewhere just a few expert runs weren't open yet. 2-3 feet early in January before the mid-month dry period, then 1-3 feet in late January. An early February storm dumped 2+ feet over most of the Southwest and nearly 4 feet at Wolf Creek. Since then there has been 1-2 feet in western COlorado but very little snow in New Mexico.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Aspen

209

134%

99%

Crested Butte

254

157%

100%

Gothic Snow Lab

290.5

128%

N/A

Durango

211

126%

100%

Telluride

229

138%

100%

Wolf Creek

335

140%

100%

Taos

177

100%

99%

Northeast: Natural snow in late October totalled 11 inches at Stowe and Jay Peak. Sunday River opened Oct. 31 and Killington opened Nov. 2 on snowmaking. Weather then turned warm and rainy, so Killington closed after 5 days while Sunday River maintained marginal operation on weekends. With 2 cold weeks and 1-3 feet of new snow, many eastern areas had more runs open than normal for Thanksgiving. Surfaces were variable from mixed rain/snow in early December and several areas were hit by an ice storm. It dumped 3+ feet over northern New England for an epic weekend before Christmas. During the holiday period there was rain, so surfaces were difficult and most areas had decreased trail counts. After the holidays conditions greatly improved with first wet snow burying the ice and up to 18 inches new powder on top. The rest of January was been extremely cold with average snowfall, so with snowmaking assistance surfaces remained good with most terrain open. February started with thaw and then rain all the way up to Tremblant and Quebec City. But after President's weekend it dumped up to 6 feet in northern New England, for an epic past week. However it's raining again today, so upcoming conditions will depend on whether it changes to snow before the storm ends. Percents open: Sunday River 95%, Hunter 84%, Okemo 100%, Stratton 100%, Tremblant 69%, Ste. Anne 100%. I strongly recommend checking First Tracks Online Ski Magazine No-Bull Ski Reports for up to date information in this region, where both weather and surface conditions can change so rapidly.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Jay (average)

303

126%

100%

Mansfield Stake

165.5

102%

100%

Sugarbush

246

135%

100%

Killington

253

141%

94%

Cannon Mt.

166

159%

100%

Sugarloaf

167

133%

100%

Whiteface

167

138%

92%

Le Massif

218

137%

98%

Other season snow totals: Tremblant 162, Mt. Ste. Anne 154, Stratton 165.

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